Squatters were in his head. Sometimes they peeked out at him from the pores in his skin. Some of the squatters had names. He was afraid they might take over and force him out of his own head. He thought of himself as Optimus Prime (the name of a character from a bad sci-fi movie). It wasn’t his real name, but it was the only name he could remember. The people in his head had better names and they seemed more real.

The funeral director spoke in clipped Lingo, “the check list only works before you leave,” he said, “once gone, there is no turning back.” He was a cadaver of a man. His job was to ease passengers across the Divide. The “Great Mystery” was the focus of his profession.

After writing his masterpiece Sammy Nine put down his digi-pad and went to sleep. He dreamed he was a woman named Ezma.

“Be sure to check your list before you leave.” The message was delivered over the brain-wave channel in Ezma’s head. Ezma was happy as she packed for her trip. Most people were never able to afford a trip to the Paradise Islands, but Ezma was not most people. She was an impresario with a mint-julep complexion. She had a free-wheeling talent, the ability to entertain important people with scintillating repartee. As an entertainer she was well paid and in great demand. Sometimes the expectations of her clients were overwhelming and she needed to get away. She saved enough money to take her once in a lifetime trip and she was looking forward to every last minute.

Optimus Prime was worried. There was a rumbling in his head. Members of Congress were agitated. The Captain of the Pox Party was on his High Horse making demands of the little people. There was never enough fealty paid to the Pox Party and the Captain was upset. Interns were sent to various offices with messages of dissent. The interns were running into one another and there was a breakdown in communications. Dark clouds loomed on the horizon. Several squatters decided to filibuster. they demanded equal representation. The Pox Party became calcified.

Ezma made a few additions and finished her list with a flourish. It had been a splendid entertainment. Everyone was flushed with satisfaction. She wore a shimmering purple gown made especially for her departure. People applauded as the funeral director took Ezma by the hand and led her to the crematorium.

Sammy Nine awoke from his dream with a sense of foreboding. He suddenly remembered: the company disconnected all his devices due to some glitch. Now, he was singularly alone — there was no tapping to feed his brain with entertaining messages — there were no videos on demand. He never wrote a masterpiece — it was a fantasy, part of a virtual reality game. Sammy”s world began to dissolve like acetate in a bath of acid.

Optimus Prime saw the clouds on the horizon. Every color was sucked from his vision except the color of blood. The world turned deep, dark red.

Me & He


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